New rules could complicate firms’ use of online data storage
For lawyers struggling to cut costs and boost efficiency, Internet-based data storage and client service has been a popular alternative. But those who have their heads in the clouds when it comes to client confidentiality concerns may get a wake-up call by the American Bar Association.
The ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20 has issued proposed changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct designed to remind lawyers of the need to safeguard client confidentiality when engaging in “cloud computing,” a phrase that refers to storing, managing and processing data on remote Internet servers rather than on a personal computer.
Proposed rules would require lawyers to take reasonable steps to stay abreast of the benefits and risks associated with technology used by Dropbox and other popular cloud computing services.
The rules changes, which would have to be adopted by individual states, are part of a review of Internet-based client service and marketing by lawyers. Also coming are guidelines on lawyer use of social media, blogs and web sites.
Commission member Frederick S. Ury, a partner at Ury & Moskow in Fairfield, said the recommendations strike a balance between the legal profession’s need to tap the benefits of technology while protecting clients.
“We should look at the rules as they exist to at least give lawyers some guidance as to how they should operate,” Ury said. “The rules should not be constructed in such a way that it prevents lawyers from taking advantage of new technologies to have their practices be more efficient. We were very, very careful to try to balance those two.”